Tag Archives: translation

My issue with the NLT

From what I hear, the New Living Translation (NLT) is slowly gaining respect as a legitimate, “authoritative” translation for use in study. The release of the NLT Study Bible, which gets very positive reviews, has probably helped. I certainly commend it as a very readable translation and have been using it more lately than before. Gus Konkel, president of the college and seminary and one of the NLT translators, has said that the quality of a translation should be judged by how well it achieves its aims (so read your Bible introductions). The NLT, which he has said (as I recall) aims to make what the author is saying as clear as possible, minimizing the questions which will arise out of reading, certainly in my experience is successful in this respect.

But how far should this be taken? I remember several years ago my brother saying that the NLT editorializes too much, and every so often I run into a verse that reads completely differently than I have ever read it. This, I suppose, is as a result of the translators trying to bring clarity to the text. For example, last night I was reading John 1 in the NLT and I came across this in verse 51:

Then he said, “I tell you the truth, you will all see heaven open and the angels of God going up and down on the Son of Man, the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth.” (NLT)

The final clause, “the one who is the stairway between heaven and earth”, does not appear anywhere in the Greek text. The Greek text ends with “Son of Man”; from what I can tell, everything that follows in the NLT is explanatory text, to clear up the meaning of the imagery of heaven opening and angels ascending and descending.

My question is, does this kind of material rightly belong in the body of the text, implying that this is what the author said, or should it go in the footnotes, thus clearing up (at least from the translator’s/editor’s perspective) the textual questions while keeping the explanation separate from the text? My vote is for footnotes.

I realize that I need to be careful here, knowing that in translating from Hebrew or Greek to English, sometimes words–such as “is”–need to be added in order to make the English make sense, and I’m certainly don’t think that a woodenly literal approach to translation is the best approach. However, adding an entire clause seems to me to take this to an extreme.

What do you think?

(When Dixie saw me writing this, she said, “Are you trying to scare people away from your blog?” I am not. And neither is this a “big deal”. It’s simply something interesting I noted in the text. Though I suppose it is a question of translation ethics, if there is such a thing.)

Scribal culture and translation

Interesting Old Testament Text and Interpretation Class today.  There was an element of what we discussed which was valuable in relation to how we evaluate the worth of various translations.

First, the oldest Old Testament manuscripts we have (up to 250B.C.) reflect diversity and suggest that the scribes at the time were not only transmitting, but in some way creating something new. They weren’t recreating the stories, but what they were apparently doing was making the text they were transmitting more current.  We didn’t go in to great detail about this, but, for instance, things like place names would be changed to reflect changes in actual place names. Or perhaps certain words that were not understood or were illegible would be interpreted by the scribes and made understandable. So, while the scribes were concerned with fidelity to the text (why else would they be scribes?), they were also concerned with making the text understandable.

This was quite a revelation to me and has a bearing on how one feels about “thought for thought” translations (such as the New Living Translation). Making the text understandable and readable is not a 20th century innovation, but has a history going back to our earliest manuscripts.

The second interesting fact was the diversity of manuscripts during this period.  I knew something about this already, but the reading and class discussion we’ve had so far has added significantly. After the destruction of the temple in 70A.D. all manuscript diversity more or less disappeared, but before that time there were not only manuscripts, but manuscript traditions (in the plural).  What difference does this make?

Well, for one, we do not have an “original” Biblical text, in the sense of a complete and perfect manuscript of the Old Testament. It does not exist and has never existed. Any notion we might have of God dictating the scriptures to the prophets ignores the fact that the Bible is a human book.  The professor referred to this as the “second incarnation” issue.  Just as in the 4th century the church fathers were dealing with the question of how Jesus could be both divine and human, so we must wrestle with the notion of how scripture can be both divinely inspired and written by humans.  Did Jesus ever get sick growing up? If he was human, then he likely did.  Do the Biblical manuscripts have errors, even going way back to the first writings?  If they were human writings, then yes they did.

It is of further interest in terms of translations in that it makes the marketing behind so-called “literal word-for-word” translations essentially meaningless.  A word-for-word translation is not a “better” translation than a translation that leans more towards thought-for-thought translation.  Each has a particular function or value.  A translation like the NASB or ESV gives you the advantage of somewhat knowing what the Hebrew text behind the English translation looked like, but this does not make it a “better” translation nor does it necessarily lead to a better understanding of the meaning of the text.

Moreover, a translation like the ESV sticks to only one particular manuscript tradition, and not a particularly old one (though the age of manuscripts isn’t everything that counts, but we’ll get to that later). So how valuable in the end is their “literal” translation policy, at least in terms of how it is marketed?

This leads to interesting questions about inspiration and authority. We will cover these issues later in the semester. (So this will be an open-ended post.)

Sometimes translation is moan

I’m fascinated with how one language relates to another and what that looks like in translation.  One of the special features on Monty Python’s Holy Grail special edition is a scene from the film which was dubbed (i.e. translated) into Japanese with English subtitles translated from the Japanese dub.  It’s fascinating what happens to words and phrases when they are translated out of one language into another and then translated back to the original language.

Earlier today I was reading a Dutch children’s story to Madeline and translating it into English as I read. It’s really quite interesting how much nuance is lost in translation, even between two Germanic languages. Certain Dutch words have no English equivalent that I’m aware of; other words require multiple words in English; some have so many shades of meaning that several similar words put together only hint at what the original word might mean. I imagine it’s the same when translating the other way.

To that end, and for my own interest (because I’m sure that few, if any of you, will be interested), I present you with my literal (“wooden”) word-for-word translation of “Nijntje Aan Zee”.  (Nijntje Pluis is a children’s character, named “Miffy” in English.)

It looks long, but it’ll be a quick read, and near the end I have some fun by translating from Dutch to English to Dutch and back to English again using different translators.

Continue reading

Steam, Balls and Brass Monkeys: A Lesson in Hermeneutics

Wednesday morning in Hermeneutics class, we were discussing Biblical wisdom literature, and Proverbs in particular. Our professor, the esteemed August Konkel, was telling us that Proverbs function like riddles. He then used a cliché as an example: “He ran out of steam.”  The meaning behind this phrase is not self-evident–it requires a context outside of the text itself in order to be understood. The Korean students in the class did not know what this phrase meant, so we discussed steam power briefly in explanation.

Then Dr. Konkel said, “Here’s another good example: ‘It’s cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.'” The Korean students didn’t understand this one either.  The North American students all started to laugh. The incongruity of the president of an evangelical seminary using such a crass phrase as an example in class was both shocking and delightful. We were all, of course, thinking of that brass monkey’s testicles.

The professor went on to explain that it is an old naval term, from back in the day when ships had cannons. “Brass monkey” was the name for a ring or triangle of brass that was used as the base to stack cannonballs in a pyramid (think of the thing you use to rack up billiards balls). Metals shrink in cold weather and brass shrinks faster than the iron in the cannonballs.  When it got really cold in the North Sea, the brass monkey would shrink and cause the pyramid of cannonballs to topple. Hence: it was cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.

Whether this explanation for the term is true or not (it appears that it is not) is beside the point.  The Westerners understood the term to be a crass phrase referring to a particular part of a monkey’s anatomy; the Easterners in the class simply did not understand the phrase at all; people from say, somewhere in Africa, may have interpreted it in another way. But none of our interpretations reflected the meaning of the phrase.

The point of the lesson was what a proverb is, but the unintentional lesson was one about how the inevitability of our cultural and experiential biases influence our interpretation of a text.  “Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey” made perfect sense to me, so I assumed to know what was meant by the phrase when in fact, my interpretation of that phrase was not even close to its actual meaning.

We do this with all sorts of “texts”: books, advertising, films, and even (perhaps especially) the Bible.

Which, incidentally, is why not even the most ‘literal, word-for-word’ English translation of the Old Testament will retain the phrase “hot of nose” in reference to God’s anger, because that phrase simply does not translate into English (just as “He ran out of steam” did not translate into Korean).

On “Jehovah”…

Interesting Hebrew class today.  So far we’ve gone through the alphabet (which is just consonants), the vowels and syllabification and today she explained why the word translated “Jehovah” in the King James Version and as exists in numerous Christian hymns is not actually a Hebrew word and is not, technically, found in the Hebrew Bible.  I had heard this before, but I never knew why such a mix up ever occurred.

Originally written Hebrew did not have vowels.  It was just a series of consonants and the vowels would be filled in naturally by hearers, much like you cld rd th rst f ths sntnc wtht th vwls (“could read the rest of this sentence without the vowels”).  Around 700 A.D. the Masoretes, in an effort to preserve the Hebrew language both written and spoken, invented an elaborate system of indicating the vowels sounds in the Hebrew language.  This system consists of combinations of dots and dashes usually below, but sometimes above and inside the consonants.  Because the text was (and is) considered holy, they did this without changing the text as written originally (hence the dots and dashes around the text).

God’s name in the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) is YHWH.  The name of God is very holy, so out of respect for God’s name, the Israelites instead said (and still say) “Adonai”–which means “Lord”–when they came across the word YHWH in the written text.  In fact, modern English translations continue to show this sort of respect for The Name: it is translated THE LORD, in all caps, in English texts.

By way of reminder to say “Adonia” instead of “YHWH”, the Masoretes added around “YHWH” the vowel dashes and dots that belong to the Hebrew for “Adonai”.  Early translators were not aware of this, so they read YHWH by taking into account the vowels that did not, in fact, belong with The Name.  When reading YHWH with those vowel indicators, you get “Yehovah” (I guess the “J” sound for the “Y” comes from the German reading), which is incorrect, a word which does not exist in Hebrew.

So, wherever modern English translations say “THE LORD”, the King James Version (or Authorized Version) will read “Jehovah”.  And since the KJV was a text extremely influential to modern English, we have many hymns which refer to “Jehovah”, rather than THE LORD or Adonai or some such variation.

Now you know.  Fascinating stuff, eh?

Translation is not a pure science

Another interesting post in Scot McKnight’s “Translation Tribalism” series:

I’d like to contend today that most words are translated in all Bible translations with formal equivalence and that some words are translated more or less in a dynamic, or functional way. In other words, there isn’t really a radical commitment to dynamic equivalence — as if one can find some better way in English to the original languages “and” or “but” or “the” or “God.” Or a radical commitment to “formal equivalence,” as if the Greek word order can be maintained in English and make sense, though at times the NASB gave that a try (much to the consternation of English readers). No one translates “God’s nostrils got bigger” (formal equivalence) but we translate “God became angry.” There are some expressions that can’t be translated woodenly unless one prefers not to be understood.  (Link)

So translation is not a pure science.  While each translation aims for one philosophy of translation (e.g. formal equivalence, dynamic equivalence), inevitably various philosophies will need to be used.  I have read, incidentally, that the same goes for the notion of inclusive language, which is used in all translations to some degree or other (this is not always realized by the layperson or non-translator).  The issue under scrutiny these days then is not whether or not inclusive language in translation is appropriate, but when it should be used and how much.  This is not a new concept for many of us, of course, but I like the way that Scot expresses it.

McKnight on translation tribalism

Scot McKnight has started a series of posts on “Translation Tribalism”: 1 and 2 (so far).

From the second post:

the authority is the original text, not the translation. The original texts are in Hebrew and Aramaic (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). The authoritative text is not in English, regardless of how accurate the translation. No matter which translation you prefer, it is not the authoritative text for determining which translation is best.

unless you can read the original languages, you should avoid making public pronouncements about which translation is best. Instead, here’s my suggestion: if you don’t know the languages and can’t read them well enough to translate accurately on your own but you want to tell your congregation or your listeners which translate is best, you need to admit it by saying something like this: “On the basis of people I trust to make this decision, the ESV or the TNIV or the NRSV or the NLT is a reliable translation.” [Emphasis McKnight’s]

As an example, he mentions the translation of the Greek word adelphos in James 3:1, which is variously translated “brothers” and “brothers and sisters”.  Says McKnight:

which one best represents the intent of the original Greek, which has the Greek word adelphos? Unless you know what adelphos means in Greek, in the broad swath of the New Testament’s use of adelphos and how it is used in the Greek-speaking (not to mention Hebrew-reading world) and about how James uses the word adelphos, any judgment is rooted in theology or theory but not in evidence. If you don’t know the Greek, avoid standing in judgment. I’m not trying to be a hard-guy or an elitist, but let’s be honest: only those who know Latin should be talking about which is the “best” translation of Virgil or only those who know Middle High German should be weighing in on the “best” translation of The Nibelungenlied. This isn’t elitist; it’s common sense.

Well said and a good reminder, particularly his argument that any opinion of a translation not based on an understanding of the original languages is based on an alreadygiven theology which requires a particular translation.

Goodbye, TNIV.

Well, how’s this for a kick in the pants: Zondervan will “discontinue putting out new products with the TNIV” (Today’s New International Version.  via Brad Boydston).  It’s kind of a vague phrase: does it mean simply that they’ll continue to publish what they’re already publishing, but nothing new?  Or do they mean that they are ceasing publication altogether?  Either way, it’s bad news for the TNIV.

It’s a kick in the pants for a number of reasons: 1) it’s a fine translation embraced by a number of scholars and denominations (including my own–the Evangelical Covenant Church), 2) our church just purchased a good number of TNIV pew bibles, 3) it is my current translation of choice.

I guess it’s not that big a deal for those of us who already have a copy of the translation and are happy with it.  But if we ever need to repace it…I guess by that time the new revision of the NIV will be out.

Since its release, the TNIV has received a great deal of flack.  Inexplicably, the concern was mostly with with its gender-accurate language ethos, which the older NLT has gotten away with (and which all translations, to some degree, employ).  It was in a battle with the ESV (English Standard Version) as the new translation of choice and it appears that from a marketing standpoint (which is likely what this is all about), the TNIV lost that battle.  I find it odd that the translating committee would publish and promote a translation and then, four or five years down the road, decide that it was a mistake.  The mistake appears to be the way they handled marketing, not the translation itself.  Strange.  Why not just rename the translation?  The Good News people did it, why can’t these folks?

What bugs me is that I get the sense that this is a point for James Dobson, who led the campaign against the TNIV.  The NIV, it seems, has been enshrined by his ilk, much like the KJV was and is, as a “if it was good enough for Paul…” translation.  It appears as if the TNIV has been bullied out of the market.

Alas…

I’ll continue to use my TNIV, with reference to the NRSV and any number of other translations I have at hand.  I suspect, as do the chairman of the translation committee and other commenters on the Christianity Today article, that the 2011 revision of the NIV won’t look much different than the TNIV (which, ultimately, wasn’t all that different from the NIV).

UPDATE: It looks like the initial Christianity Today piece was a bit sensationalist.  As Scot McKnight reads it, the 2011 NIV will be a revision of the TNIV.  I don’t get that from the CT article, but this interview with Douglas Moo, chairman of the translating committee, the 2011 NIV is next in a series of revisions 1970s NIV -> 1984 NIV -> early 2000’s NIVi (UK only–this was apparently the “mistake”) -> TNIV -> NIV (2011).  So that cools things a bit.  It looks like what they’re trying to do is set things up with a bit more transparency to try and avoid the backlash the TNIV experienced.  That’s still, as far as I can tell, a marketing thing, rather than a translation issue.

I do find it a bit odd that they appear to be soliciting opinions from not only scholars but also the public.  I’m not an elitist, but it seems to me that lay-suggestions (as they would be from me) would only be aesthetic suggestions.  But I guess that’s fair enough: as one commenter on Jesus Creed suggested, how about issuing the new revision in normal binding.  It was impossible to find the TNIV that wasn’t duo-tone or textured or be-flowered.  Another suggestion: make a non-red-letter edition available.  I think I’ll backtrack on my opinion of public opinion and email them right now.

As far as the bullying goes, here’s Brad Boydston’s take:

…I’m afraid that such a move is going to be perceived as a recognition of the primacy of the neo-reformed tribe, which is vying for dominance of the evangelical movement. In a nutshell, they oppose the TNIV because it uses gender inclusive language. Gender inclusive language tends to undermine the theological system they’ve established — a system which sees gender roles as a reflection of Trinitarian complementarianism.

Some of us resist such thinking on two levels. First, the system they’ve constructed involves a lot of unnatural gymnasitcs — and is internally inconsistent. Second, given the changes in American English over the past 25 years it is imperative that scripture be allowed to speak with a voice that resonates with contemporary readers. So, in areas where it is consistent with the clear intent of the biblical authors gender inclusive language is preferable.

That said, I will say that it’s quite something to stand up and say that a decade’s worth of work which you have recently completed wasn’t quite up to snuff.

Bible Translation Randomness

These days I’m fascinated by the various translations.  Not too long ago I said that the NRSV was becoming my translation of choice.  Four months later and I bought a copy of the TNIV (Today’s New International Version) and have been reading up on it.  The TNIV is essentially an updated version of the NIV (New International Version), reflecting updated scholarship and what they call “gender accurate” language (meaning what most people would call “gender inclusive” language).

A couple thoughts on the TNIV and translation in general:

1.  The TNIV gets a lot of flack because of it’s gender accurate language.  As far as I am aware, the NLT (New Living Translation) has received no such flack, even though it is also a “gender accurate” translation.  In fact, most new translations are “gender accurate” to some degree.  The concern appears to be what exactly “gender accuracy” is and how much of it should be included.  (I read somewhere that the TNIV gets all the attention because of its relationship to the NIV, the longstanding bestseller.  This makes sense.  I guess.)

2.  I like the TNIV so far because it’s familiar (having grown up on the NIV) and yet updated.

3.  The TNIV is accepted by the Evangelical Covenant Church (our denomination).  It is flatly rejected by the Southern Baptist Convention. (Klyne Snodgrass mentioned at the Midwinter Conference in Chicago that Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Seminary endorsed the Holman Christian Standard Bible, in response to the release o of the TNIV, because he thought the Southern Baptists should have a translation they can control.)  In fact, it appears as if Calvinists have the hots for the ESV (English Standard Version) and the hates for the TNIV.

4.  I am developing a theory that one’s preference of Bible translation is a reflection of either one’s personality or one’s theological position (or both).  Example: Mark Driscoll digs the ESV; Rob Bell loves the TNIV.  The ESV is more literal, less readable; the TNIV is less literal and more readable.

5.  I’m becoming more and more convinced (well, I think I was already convinced) that objective reading of the text is impossible to come by.  It is often said that one should always study scripture with several different translations in hand (assuming one can’t read the original languages).  But it occurred to me the other day that chances are that a person will choose the translation among the bunch which suits the objective of study–the more “fitting” translation, the one the person likes more.  Simply reading multiple translations will not lead to the best reading of a passage, but the preferred reading.

6.  Having said that, reading multiple translations will give a person a broad sense of the possibilities of meaning or intent in  a passages.  But who is to choose?  Is choosing even necessary.

7.  I’m also learning that the differences between contemporary English translations are subtle and rarely affect meaning significantly.  From what I can tell, it’s mostly about nuance.

8.  Based on a YouTube clip of one of his sermons, John MacArthur rejects the TNIV because it allows cultural agenda to unduly influence translation.  I wonder what he thinks about the notion that gender-inclusive language (the root issue) is a way of making scripture more accessible to a particular culture.  Is all this fuss simply rhetoric?  It’s always couched in language about feminist agendas and pandering to culture and changing the meaning of the text.  But what about this: modern translations are in current English.  Nobody that I know of (other than the King James-only people) has a problem with translating into current English.  Since current English is increasingly gender inclusive, doesn’t it follow that new translations should be gender inclusive?

9.  Incidentally, “gender inclusive” translations don’t neuter all gender references.  What they do is take a passage that says “men” in the original language but which clearly means “men and women” and translate it so.

10.  I wonder: if you placed two people who have not read the Bible in a “perspective and context vacuum” (hypothetically speaking) and had one read the ESV and another read the TNIV (for example), would they have conflicting understandings at the end?  I doubt it.  One would just have a more pleasant reading experience than the other.

11.  One might argue that it’s good to wrestle with difficult text, rather than having the text do all the work for you.  But does it really make a difference if the difficulty is simply the “type” of English used?

12.  Judging by what I see online, angry people prefer more archaic, overly literal translations.  I find this off-putting.  Conversely, gentler people appear to prefer the more current, inclusive translations.  This attracts me.  (See #4)

13.  As Ian has mentioned a couple of times on this blog, there is no such thing as a literal word-for-word translation.A literal word-for-word translation would be, I suspect, largely unintelligible.

14.   I’m curious to know how one gauges which translation is more literal or more accurate than another, when all translations are…translations.  And translation is essentially interpretive work.  And interpretive work inevitably involves (differences of) opinion, perspective, preference, etc.–interpretation is not an objective process.

15.  #14 belies my postmodern scepticism.  Scepticism, at least, of there being a largely objective translation of scripture.

16.  In spite of my scepticism, I do see that, by and large, it won’t make much difference which translation you use.  (See #7 and #10)

17.  In conclusion: pick a translation you find readable and read it.

Which translation of the Bible do you use?

Which translation of the Bible do you use? (AKA, my defense of the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible)

I grew up with the New International Version (NIV)—standard text, I think, for my generation of evangelicals—and I still use it: I use an NIV Thompson Chain Reference Bible and have an exhaustive concordance based on the NIV text, and most of the scripture I remember is from the NIV.

In the last couple of years I’ve been checking out other translations.  Initially it was about finding the best translation, but I no longer believe there is an overall “best” translation or that such a thing is even possible.  Of course, each translator or translation committtee claims that their version is the most accurate or the most faithful rendering of the original languages of the Bible, and each of us poor, non-original-language-reading saps must decide which committee’s or scholar’s word to go by.

Now, from what I can tell (as a layperson) the difference between the translations is for the most part superficial: placement of punctuation (which does not exist in the original text), word choice (between similar English words), word order and whatnot.  Two people using two different translations are not likely to come away from the same texts with a different interpretation or understanding—if they do, it’s because of what the interpreters bring to the text, rather than what the translation gives the interpreter.  But with the proliferation of translations these days, we do, at some point,  have to make a choice.  (Is it me, or is it evangelical Protestant groups that are releasing all these new versions these days?  What does that say about us?)

In the last couple of years I’ve been drifting more towards the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).  Growing up, I was told that this was a “liberal” translation, though the reason for this was never made clear to me.  As far as I can tell, the NRSV is considered “liberal” because of two things: the use of gender inclusive language and the translation of Isaiah 7:14 (is it “virgin” or “young woman“?).  I’m assuming gender inclusive language is no longer much of an issue, as both the New Living Translation (NLT) and Today’s New International Version (TNIV), both generally accepted in conservative circles, use inclusive language.

As for the translation of Isaiah 7:14: first and foremost, it seems to me to be a moot point, given that in the NRSV both Matthew 1:23 and Luke 1:26-34 use the term “virgin” in reference to Mary.  So the doctrine of the virgin birth is not at issue between translations.  Second, I don’t want my choice of translation to be based on an ideological or doctrinal slant.  In fact, I don’t want the process of translation itself to be based on that (which again makes me wonder about the myriad new translations appearing from evangelical publishers). The goal of any translation should be to provide an accurate, faithful rendering of the original text (within the limits of the translation process), even if that means that the most faithful, accurate and, dare I say, honest translation of that Hebrew word in Isaiah 7:14 (for example) is “young woman” rather than “virgin” (I’m not a scholar, so I’m not saying it is).  This is not at all an unreasonable expectation, particularly from an evangelical viewpoint which believes that it should be scriptures shaping our theology rather than our theology shaping scripture (or translation).

I’m sure the issue is more complicated than I’ve described here and I don’t have the answers in the translation debate.  I simply have to take someone’s word for it, and before I can do that, I have to decide whose word is most trustworthy.  And so on and so forth.

Which is precisely why I am increasingly leaning towards the NRSV.  The NRSV is the only translation, as far as I’m aware, which in general knows no denominational boundaries.  The NIV, TNIV, NLT (New Living Translation), ESV (English Standard Version), and others tend to be accepted and used specifically by evangelical or conservative denominations.  This doesn’t make them poor or inferior translations, but I do find it curious that the majority of those using these translations belolong to a relatively small section of the Christian spectrum (I admit this is conjecture, rather than fact).  The NRSV, on the other hand, is widely accepted among evangelical Protestant churches and mainline Protestant churches, as well as the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church (there may be exceptions of course, such as the King James Only-ers), and academics and scholars respect the translation as well. So I lean towards the NRSV because it’s ecumenical—it’s not the translation of one view of the Bible.  The NRSV is not a conservative Bible or a Reformed Bible or a Catholic Bible or what have you—it can be any one of those, but it need not be any.

I’m not saying the NRSV is perfect.  I’m not saying the other translations are bad (I can be kind of neurotic about having one of everything, so I own several translations).  I’m not saying the NRSV the most readable. I’m just saying I appreciate the fact that it’s ecumenical.  It is meaningful for me that, in a world of increasing division between liberal and conservative, this ideology and that ideology, this theology and that theology, the NRSV is a translation of the Bible that seems to transcend those boundaries.